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The Phantom Embezzlement in the NBBF

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“Da iya taku barawo ke kama mai kaya.” – Hausa proverb.

Journalism in Nigeria may not help the country grow because many journalists do not subscribe to the most important creed of journalism – truth seeking. Even some of those who know the truth remain silent while some even promote the lies. I have encountered this during the media campaign of misinformation against the appointment of a new Director-General for the NIA in 2018 and I wrote this: The Media, NIA and the Truth and many of the media houses (including major ones) turned against me by publishing sponsored libelous lies against me.

I am encountering another media misinformation campaign now regarding the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) crisis where certain media organizations portray the hero as villain. The hero, Engr. Musa Kida, who turned the fortunes of our basketball, both locally and internationally, as President of the NBBF, for the better is unfortunately being turned into a villain by these media.

During the study for my master’s degree in journalism at Harvard, the program, in one of the courses, harped on the contents of ‘The Elements of Journalism” by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel. The 10 elements of journalism as enunciated by the authors, particularly the first three: 1. Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth; 2. Its first loyalty is to citizens; and 3. Its essence is a discipline of verification, were harped on and drummed into us to the point of ‘indoctrination.’

I tried to make ‘The Elements of Journalism’ my ‘holy grail’ since I ventured into magazine publishing in 2010 and I recommend it to journalism schools in the country.

A crisis has engulfed the NBBF, and I have written about it in this article: Nigeria Basketball Federation Crises (NBBF): The Facts. The media misinformation to portray Kida who, using his personal resources pending when the federal government reimburses him, boosted Nigeria’s soft power in the world through the exploits of our national basketball teams – D’Tigers and D’Tigress – from 2017 to date, as a villain, is being orchestrated by the opposing group in the NBBF crisis. If Joseph Nye’s thesis in his book ‘Soft Power’ that “soft power is the means to success in world politics” holds, then Kida deserves a national honor not the fallacious campaigns being waged against him.

This group orchestrating the false campaign is led by the former NBBF president Tijjani Umar, a permanent secretary in the villa who has shown his desire to remain president of the federation since 2017 when in the dying days of his presidency he sourced a $12.5 million sponsorship deal for our local basketball league by Kwese, a multinational communications company.

According to contract and confirmation documents from Kwese, the company had paid Umar the total sum of $2.2million in two tranches so far. According to the outgoing NBBF board that is now being maligned falsely for alleged embezzlement of funds, Umar has not handed over either the monies or contract papers or anything to them since they took over in 2017. This truth is likely to be revealed through the ongoing public hearing by the House Committee on sports investigating the crisis in the NBBF and its finances.

Nigerians are living witnesses to our basketball teams having recently dominated both local and foreign news. The exploits of both the male team (D’Tigers) and the female team (D’Tigress) since 2017 when Kida became president of the NBBF are unprecedented in the history of the sport in Nigeria. We became the first African team to ever beat Team USA and Team Argentina; our female team won gold in three consecutive Afro-basketball competitions; we became the first and only African nation and one of only three in the world to have both its male and female teams in the last Olympics; and we beat China in China at the world cup. This was achieved only through the personal sacrifices by Kida and his NBBF board.

According to Kida, he remained silent even when a demonstration was orchestrated against him and a few members of the D’Tigress were misinformed and manipulated to release a video in which they falsely accused him of embezzling their “$230,000” donated by Guaranty Trust and Fidelity banks which was in fact domiciled in the NBBF account at the CBN and which only the ministry of sports has access to. His silence, he said, was premised on his desire not to embarrass the federal government on its inability to fund the camps and competitions of both the male and female teams as at and when due. He had to come out now, first before the House Committee on sports hearing, to make these revelations to defend himself under oath and to attack the misinformation being championed against him in the media which were beginning to be believed and his hard-earned integrity being soiled.

According to sources within the outgoing NBBF board, when they were sworn-in in July 2017, they had only two weeks to prepare for their first Female Afro-basketball competition scheduled for August in Bamako, Mali. When the board wrote to the ministry of sports, they were informed that there were no funds and that the board should fund Nigeria’s participation and seek for refund later. The option was to not participate in the competition, but Kida used his personal resources to fund two camps – one in Orlando, Florida where the coach resided, for the foreign-based players, and the other in Nigeria for the local players -;  air travel to Nigeria from the USA for 10 players; four-star hotel accommodation in Lagos; air travel to Bamako and back to Nigeria/USA for the whole team and crew; license fees; insurance for the team; allowances for team and crew; and match bonuses.

The team won gold for the first time since 2005 (under Da Jacob Gyang Buba) and qualified for the following world cup after playing some qualifiers. The minister, Barrister Solomon Dalung led the team to present the trophy to President Muhammadu Buhari at a FEC meeting on their return. The D’Tigress repeated the feat three consecutive times and got to the quarterfinals of the world cup for the first time by an African team and Kida funded all preparations and competitions without a Kobo from the ministry which continued to promise they would pay him. The only exception was when Nigeria hosted world cup qualifiers twice and some companies donated some money to augment what the NBBF spent from what was borrowed from Kida.

The same process was used for the D’Tigers for all their competitions including the various camps for the team in Las Vegas, Nevada and other venues around the world for preparations for the last Olympics although the government funded the actual competitions in Japan. By 2019, the ministry owed Kida over one billion Naira when converted from US dollars but could only refund him about N600 million.

After the part payment by the ministry in 2019, Kida continued to fund our basketball, to earn glories for the country, and to boost our soft power in the world. As at today, the ministry still owes Kida over one billion Naira, and some “charlatans” according to Kida, are trying to push him out. They are not only stopping at that but are bent on tarnishing his image. He however said he is confident the House committee investigation will bring the truth out and put the liars to shame.

The media must continue to re-evaluate its responsibility to the citizens and present only the truth, else, it will continue to lose its legitimacy.

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